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New York Islanders vs. Carolina Hurricanes @NHLdotcom
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GAME: New York Islanders (37-29-10-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (28-33-13-6).

TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.

They may not admit it, but the New York Islanders must be concerned with the Buffalo Sabres.

One more win and they can forget about them completely.

New York looks to clinch its third straight playoff berth when it faces former coach Peter Laviolette and the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Islanders have been trying to hold off Buffalo in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Sabres have made things difficult by going 5-0-1 in their last six.

A 5-1 victory over Montreal on Wednesday kept New York three points ahead of Buffalo, with two games remaining for both clubs. A win Friday by the Islanders or a Sabres loss in regulation to Toronto would send New York into the playoffs for the third straight season.

"We're still not concerned with what Buffalo does," Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. "We only care about and focus on ourselves."

Should the Islanders lose or tie Friday, Sunday's regular-season finale against Philadelphia could determine which team gets the last playoff spot in the East.

"I think we're frustrated that we didn't put (Buffalo) away ourselves," Islanders forward Mark Parrish said. "We just have to go down to Carolina on Friday and take care of business."

Parrish continued his torrid scoring with two goals, and Roman Hamrlik also scored twice as New York rebounded from consecutive losses to record its conference-leading 25th home win Wednesday.

Parrish, who missed 23 games earlier this season with an ankle sprain, has goals in four straight games and seven in his last eight contests.

The Hurricanes, reduced to role of spoiler for weeks, made life difficult for the Islanders with a 3-2 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.

That win had to feel special for Laviolette, fired as coach of the Islanders following a first-round playoff loss to Ottawa last season. Laviolette guided the Islanders to the postseason in his only two seasons with the club.

"I'm happy we won the game, for a lot of different reasons," Laviolette said.

Since beating the Islanders, the Hurricanes have lost two straight, including a 3-2 defeat to visiting Boston on Tuesday.

Carolina went scoreless on three power-play opportunities against the Bruins, and is 0-for-26 with the man advantage since Sean Hill's second-period goal against Pittsburgh on March 19.

STANDINGS (through March 31): Islanders - 88 points, 3rd place, 10 PB, Atlantic Division. Hurricanes - 75 points, 3rd place, 29 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Trent Hunter and Parrish, 24 goals; Oleg Kvasha, 32 assists; Hunter, 49 points; Eric Cairns, 189 PIM. Hurricanes - Josef Vasicek, 19 goals; Justin Williams, 31 assists; Vasicek and Williams, 42 points; Jesse Boulerice, 125 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 31): Islanders - Power play: 15.6 percent (49 for 314), 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (299 for 351), 5th. Hurricanes - Power play: 10.6 percent (40 for 377), 30th. Penalty killing: 82.1 percent (289 for 352), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Islanders - Rick DiPietro (22-18-5, 5 SO, 2.33 GAA); Wade Dubielewicz (1-0-0, 0.00). Hurricanes - Kevin Weekes (23-29-10, 6, 2.28); Arturs Irbe (5-2-1, 1.97).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: March 27; Hurricanes, 3-2. At Uniondale, N.Y., Weekes made 16 of his 36 saves in the third period, and Allan Rourke and Sean Hill scored first-period goals for Carolina.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 12-18-7-3 on the road; Hurricanes - 13-17-8-2 at home.

Associated Press
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